The “Fat Talk” Diet

Super low-carb!

06.03.16
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I can’t remember the last time I went more than 24 hours without thinking or saying something cruel about my body. Based on my interactions with friends, female relatives and the World Wide Web, this mentality is not entirely unusual for a woman. Which is sad. Like, sadder than the shooting scene in Bambi sad.

And worse, it makes me feel like a fraud—because as a feminist, I really do believe that people of all sizes and shapes have the right to love their bodies. I just can’t figure out how to extend the same courtesy to myself.

“Fat talk” is a language I am very comfortable speaking. The answer to someone’s question about how many calories are in a bagel rolls off my tongue as instinctively as the Pledge of the Allegiance. Last week, I caught my reflection in a store window, and instead of admiring the very cool outfit I had assembled or acknowledging how cozy my brilliant mind looked underneath my hair, the first thing that occurred to me was how I wished my stomach were flatter.

I knew I couldn’t face bikini season like that. So I decided to go on a diet. Except instead of cutting calories (been there, done that—it’s about as pleasant as sea lice), I would cut the “fat talk.”

For one week, I lived by the following rules:

1) No verbalizing negative thoughts about my body or anyone else’s body.

2) No thinking negative thoughts about my body or anyone else’s body (to the best of my ability—because obviously I can’t always control what pops into my demon head!)

3) No indulging in body-shaming ~materials~ (i.e. if I see a link to an article about “How to Slim Down Your Left Pinky in 10 Days,” I am not allowed to click it.)

I figured the first rule would be a piece of cake (anti-diet pun intended). But four hours into the diet, when I was texting with a couple of friends and the conversation started to spin into half-joking-half-serious quips about losing weight for summer, I froze. Was I supposed to opt out of the discussion and wait for it to pass? Change the topic completely?

Panicking, I went with option C: act like a Kindergarten teacher on ecstasy! Typing rapidly, I texted, “Your bodies are beautiful and so are your BRAINS.” I hated sounding so fake, but apparently no dieter is exempt from artificial sweetener.

Following the second rule was a whole different ball game. I was braced for the expected triggers, like going to a workout class with wall-to-wall mirrors or trying on jeans or eating a big dinner. But it was shattering to discover that even the most benign activities were minefields. I could be lying on my couch reading a book about Italy in the 1970s and poof! I’d catch a glimpse of my thighs, and my pre-programmed insult factory would whir to life.

Sometimes I laughed at myself for even beginning to entertain these kinds of thoughts. Other times, I felt sad and very tired. Avoiding daily “fat thoughts” was harder than avoiding Game of Thrones spoilers on a Monday morning. I needed to rethink my strategy.

Which brings me to rule #3. I decided to add an additional clause: not only would I shun body-shaming clickbait, I would also treat my mind like a wounded chipmunk and administer Bactine in the form of copious body-positive articles, videos, images and tweets. I would crowd out the bad thoughts and slot in the good, Easy Bake Oven-style.

So I did. For the remaining days of the diet, I saturated my head space with as much self-esteem as it could hold. And on the seventh day, I rested.

I won’t lie and say that the “fat talk” diet cured me of my “fat talk” habit completely. My body-shaming proclivities run deeper than a Kiddie Pool, and I’m still stitching up my life vest. But there is one change worth noting. For the past day or so, whenever a bad thought flits through my head, it feels kind of stale. Like a laugh track on an old sitcom that could, and probably should, be snipped from the reel.

My final takeaway is this: Unlike any other diet I’ve ever tried, the “fat talk” diet left me with the exact same body–not fatter, not thinner, just the same delightful skin sack filled with all the mushy organs that keep me alive.

Collages by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Molly

    My mom did this when she had me! I never heard her (or my dad) say anything negative about women’s bodies growing up. Now that we can talk about our insecurities as adults we do, but I think it made such a difference for me growing up and not even knowing it was a thing to worry about.

    • Harling Ross

      Your mom sounds like the bee’s knees

  • Vanessa

    Lovely article.

  • just emailed to 45 friends

    • Amelia Diamond

      me too. i love this harling!

    • Harling Ross

      That makes me so happy!!!

  • Rossana Julián Colín

    Absolutely LOVED it. All my mushy organs and the brain beneath my hair, enjoyed every single word. Thank you!

    • Harling Ross

      Mushy organs is my new favorite way to think about my body

  • Isn’t it crazy how they put all those mirrors in fitness classes and gyms, so even when you’re making yourself healthier it’s hard not to be critical?

  • I was the same until I hit 35. And then I was like, woo hoo, check me out, looking good, girl! Don;t know where it came rom but I kind of love it.

    • Harling Ross

      I read that statistically women feel their most confident at age 34! Very excited for this.

      • Senka

        So another year to deal with the inner demons and then I’m good 😀

  • somebodyfromsomewhere

    Loved the article. I am going to follow the rules myself 🙂

    http://somebodyfromsomewhere.me/

    • Harling Ross

      DO IT!!!

  • Hannah

    What I love is that Man Repeller is a place on the web where women genuinely seem to support and celebrate each other. So refreshing and hopeful. Thanks all x

  • Michaela Christine

    it’s honestly sickening how body shaming on ourselves has evolved into a normative discontent. in fact, most of us look down upon people who are outwardly confident with their bodies which is even more deplorable…

    the fat talk diet is genius and a definite resolution to this problem…. if only we can get ourselves to stick with it for good (it’s probably harder than sticking to a “real” diet tbh)!!!!

    bymichaelachristine.com

  • Rebekah

    I’ve always been overweight, and I don’t know if it was that my parents never really commented one way or another about people’s appearances or a distinct lack of tv and magazines when I was growing up but I’ve genuinely never had body issues. I’ve never been on a diet, and I kind of don’t know where other women are coming from when they drop self deprecating “fat talk” into conversations. It makes me really uncomfortable. It reminds me of the Amy Schumer skit where the women are all one-upping each other saying terrible things about themselves. At the end of the day isn’t it enough and okay to just exist in your body without looking at it from outside yourself and judging it through the lens of other people’s opinions? What’s actually wrong with a stomach that sticks out? And isn’t is objectively weird for someone to have an opinion on someone else’s stomach? The way I see it if you wouldn’t walk up to a woman on the street and make a negative comment about her body maybe you shouldn’t say it to yourself. Give yourself a break.

    • Jessica Peterson

      Hey. You rock. I want to mold your same spirit into my 3-yo daughter’s spirit. I feel like, as a culture we’re making headway, but I’m an optimist.

  • Noise in Wonderland

    An interesting read, but something I can totally relate to. My biggest one is the internal thoughts – i have so many each day.

    I also can be insanely, almost bi-polar with my thoughts, some moments I’ll be loving myself and the next I’m sitting on the opposite side of the spectrum hating everything I see.

    I think I’m going to give this a try soon, even if just to see how much those negative thoughts come to my head, I think just realising how much I really say negative things to myself could be a wake up call..xx

    Amy
    thenoiseinwonderland.blogspot.com.au

  • Jolie

    I love reading MR because I truly feel like I’m reading my own secret iPhone notes (the ones where I scribble insecurities, to-do lists, thoughts, shopping tips, poems, jokes, etc). I really relate to so many articles here, but this one got to me pretty hard. I gained 30 pounds in college and finally lost it all during my last semester, about two years ago. I felt so great…suddenly, I was looking in those mirrors at the gym to check myself out!!

    But in the past few months, I’ve gained the weight back and have really been struggling. Now, I feel like I don’t want to shop because I look bad in everything; I don’t want to catch my reflection in a window because I’ll focus on, like, my double chin or chubby arms. This article really made me rethink those negative thoughts — from now on, I’ll take my time getting to where I want to be, and I think I can try the “no fat talk diet” on my way there.

    • Harling Ross

      Exactly! The “fat talk” diet is like a juice cleanse for your brain. It packs in all the important mental vitamins, like perspective.

  • Basil

    I realised a couple of years ago that I couldn’t think of a single part of my external body (fortunately I haven’t had any complexes about say, my kidneys thinking they’re not toned enough) that I hadn’t disliked / been ashamed of at some point in my life, even the freaking bit of skin by my armpits. It depressed me so much.

    What finally changed the way I saw my body was pregnancy – I was meant to have a big stomach, and what my body was doing was amazing. I even wore tight fitting dresses! I still have a bit of a pouch and a c section scar, but when I see them I remember what my body did, that the pouch was my baby’s home and that scar is from a operation which saved both our lives, so they’re both incredible

    • Harling Ross

      I love this! Thanks for sharing

  • Caterina Nicolini

    yes!!! love this! We need more self-empowerment because its within ourselves, and its the only place that we can truly get it from.

  • Senka

    Loved the article and love the idea of the fat-talk diet. I never thouht of the concept of putting my self on a diet exactly, but have activelly been trying to banish those thoughts whenever I could. Sometimes it worked better, some others it didn’t work at all. What I find weird is that my “fat-talk” and “fat- shame” are reserved for me. I get very angry and vocal whenever another person is exposed to it by others, and genuinelly believe that people of all shapes and sizes can be and are beautiful, but can’t apply the same thing to myself. Having been rather thin (prepubescent boy size) in my mid twenties, and being a bit healithier, chubbier now, I realise that I never really loved this body, and was never able to cut myself some slack. Even stickfigure thin ( photos creep me out now) I wasn’t thin enough, because we’re thought not to ever think of ourselves as enough. Now when I’m definitelly not thin enough by current standards, because I acquired some curves, I don’t even bother, but feel the pang every time I see the a diet or work out regime article. Also I am sorta fed up with the fitness blogger approach of creating healthy bodies that still look sorta forced and fake to me. Not all of us are born to look athletic, nor does the desired “bubble but” look good in clothes (unless you’re into track pants).
    But it’s not just me. I’ve spent a weekend recently with my parents, and noticed that my 63 years old, 120 pounds mother that wears size 4 complains about being fat. At that moment I realised it’s unhealthy, yet strongly ingrained in our mental back up, and has to be fought, before it becomes a full blown insanity.

  • Totally guilty of this habit! I wish I could find some easier approach to avoid negative thinking of my own body image!

    Love the positive take on the last part!

    Jil,
    http://www.jildiamante.com
    http://goo.gl/LfTL3n

  • Lyndsay

    I loved this and having been trying so hard to do it myself recently. It’s not easy to control what pops in your head, but making a conscious effort not to give yourself and others shit for having a body feels great! That said, I have found that it can be perceived as impolite to not take part in fat talk, especially amongst more distant acquaintances and colleagues. It’s deeply upsetting to me that these destructive thought processes, and the comments they produce, pass for small talk amongst (usually, but not limited to) women.

  • lily

    YES MAMA!!!!

  • Jessica Peterson

    I’m at a point in my life where I have the ability to say (in my own head) “do NOT be an asshole!” when I think rude thoughts about another woman’s exterior. It’s taken a long time and a lot of practice, but it feels better than letting myself feel superior.

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